Hannah: Well, thanks for joining us today, Emily.
Emily: Yes, of course. Thank you so much for having me.
Hannah: I am so excited to have you on this podcast. You are 25, and you already have quite the resume for a financial planner. So, I want to really dig in to kind of how you did that. First of all, how did you get into financial planning?
Emily: So, I actually went to Virginia Tech and got a degree in finance and found out that I wanted to graduate early. I didn’t want to miss out on another football season, so I honestly found a track that I thought was interesting, and it happened to be the certified financial planning track. Virginia Tech has graduated hundreds of students through that program over the years. I found it through an advisor at Virginia Tech. He is, I think a mentor to a lot of us, and kind of went from there.
Hannah: Did you start with an internship while you were in school?
Emily: I did, actually. Funny enough, I think my first internship was actually with Morgan Stanley. At the time, I had no idea what wealth management was, what financial planning was, but I took it because it sounded like a great opportunity. It’s a well-known company. So, that was my first internship, actually, my sophomore summer. Then, from there, I applied to a few different companies, mostly in corporate finance, and I ended up at Boeing. Boeing was a wonderful experience. I look back at that very fondly, but it just wasn’t what I wanted to do necessarily as a career.
Emily: After that, I ended up at a fee-based firm called VLP Financial advisors and kind of that’s when I really started digging into planning. That’s also in the Northern Virginia area, so it’s where I wanted to be full time. So, I had three kind of different internships, I guess, a little bit diverse.
Hannah: And that really helped show you what you wanted to do after graduation.
Emily: Yeah. I got a little bit of I feel like I got a little bit of finance. I got a little bit of accounting, and I got some financial planning in. I think by the end of it, I was really able to walk away saying, “You know, I know what I want to do. I want to be a financial advisor.” I knew the area that I wanted to be in. I kind of knew the career path that I wanted. And I was really able to look at previous Virginia Tech graduates who have done the same thing and kind of make that dream a reality.
Hannah: As you’re graduating college and looking to your first full-time financial planning job, what were your expectations of what financial planning would look like in practice day to day?
Emily: That’s a great question. Honestly, I think my expectations were it was going to be exactly like my college classes. There was going to be a little bit of insurance, a little bit of investments, a little bit of tax, and I was just going to look at those kind of in silos for clients. We always talk about comprehensive financial planning, but I had absolutely no idea what that meant until I kind of got a few months into the career and realized when we meet with these clients. We know everything about them, you know, personally, professionally.
Emily: So, I think my expectations versus reality were quite different, but I love the way that we integrate everything here at SBSB and I’m sure other planning firms in the area. It’s exactly what I felt like Virginia Tech set me up for and prepared me for. I think that’s one of the benefits of graduating from one of those certified financial planning education tracks is you are set up for success, I think, very early in your career.
Hannah: So, you are working at SBSB, which … Can you tell me about the firm for people who don’t know?
Emily: Yeah, sure. SBSB, when I started was, I think about 50 people. I think we’re close to 65 now.
Hannah: Oh, wow.
Emily: Yeah, we’ve actually grown a lot pretty organically over the last few years since I started. We’ve done a lot of hiring of students out of college, as well as just kind of career-changers, people who are just making a small shift, or sometimes even a major change. So now, I think we’re close to 3.3 billion assets under management. We all work in departments. Then, within the departments we work in silos.
Emily: So, I am in the client service department. There’s also a tax and a portfolio management department. So within my department, I actually work on a team. My team is the smallest. So, I work just specifically for one relationship manager who’s been in the business, I think almost 20 years, if not longer. So, I work with … Her name’s Barbara. I have an operations specialist named Shelly. That’s pretty much our team. I service about half of Barb’s books, so that’s about 60 clients. It keeps me quite busy.
Hannah: Then, so Barbara has another service associate like you who’s servicing the other half of her practice?
Emily: Yes, yeah. That’s definitely true. His name is Taylor. He’s actually a senior manager. He is a little bit more advanced in his career, but he serves the other half of her book. Then together, that’s kind of our team of four. That’s pretty much how the whole firm operates, is in these little silos. That’s kind of, I think, how we’ve found certain efficiencies and really been able to service a client book of about 120.
Hannah: When you came in, did you immediately fill that role where you were client-facing, engaging with clients from day one?
Emily: You know, I think I did. It’s funny, looking back three years ago, I think when I first started, I wasn’t on a silo. I just kind of worked for multiple silos. We were really as a firm making some big shifts in what our firm was going to look like going forward. So, I worked for a few different relationship managers. I was by far the youngest, you know, obviously right out of school. They did a really good job getting me into client meetings, getting me client-facing. Then, I would say while I did some client correspondence, most of it was just trying to get me some face-to-face time and really help meet and understand the client.
Hannah: You know, it was interesting. You talked about how much SBSB has grown since you’ve and there. And in there years, I mean, that’s almost a 30% growth. I mean, that’s huge growth rate. But, has that affected your job capacity at all with the silos?
Emily: It’s funny, I actually don’t feel affected by it, other than positively, because I feel like a lot of the hiring was students out of college or recent graduates. So, I feel like I’ve made more friends at work than when I first started. It just that wasn’t necessarily the case. So, I love all the new energy coming in. It’s really contagious. There’s a little bit of, you know, healthy competition, that kind of thing. But no, because we have the work. We have the client load. I think that every associate, as we’re called, is utilized pretty fully. I wouldn’t say I’m affected in one way or another by all the hiring. I am looking forward to kind of us growing our careers together, though, you know, and reaching manager, and kind of just growing and learning together. I think that that’s pretty exciting.
Hannah: What does a career path look like for you at SBSB right now?
Emily: There’s a long version and a short version. We’re pretty vertical, I would say. So at every level, there’s pretty much two levels, which means that associate, senior associate, followed then by manager, senior manager, director, senior director. So, everyone’s career path looks a little bit different, but I would say that that’s one thing that we really find success in. Because when we’re trying to hire interns, interns want a career path. They want an understanding of if they were hired full-time what that would look like.
Emily: So, I think we put a lot of thought into that. I think it’s been very much to our success, especially trying to help associates out, understanding what their timelines look like, when they’re really required to develop business, when they’re … You know, when you hit certain milestones, it’s pretty laid out. Leadership really supports us. I think that while every path looks a little bit different, I would say people can find long-term success here pretty easily.
Hannah: So, you said leadership supports us.
Hannah: I’m always interested whenever I hear that. What does that look like practically for you?
Emily: Okay. I think among the vertical kind of path I just described, we have an executive team. They all have … You know, there’s five of them. They have different personalities and different skills, but I ended up choosing our COO, Martine, as my mentor for the last few years. So I guess, personally what that looks like for me is just my interaction with her and kind of talking to her about what I’m interested in planning, kind of the involvement that interests me the most. She is a highly credentialed individual. I’m probably going to miss one, but MBA, CFP, CPA, very, very bright. So, being able to look at someone who’s not actually a financial planner, because she runs the company, is really I think unique and provides just different insights than maybe I would get from my direct boss.
Emily: So, what that looked like for me, actually, was I love recruiting. I find it contagious. I love meeting college students and talking to them about their career goals and their ideal career path. So, she kind of picked up on that. As a result, I was able to go to the University of Georgia, and Texas Tech University, and of course, Virginia Tech, and really help the company recruit new talent. I did that while it wasn’t part of my job description at all. I was not hired in any sort of HR or recruiting role. She found that that was something that I enjoyed. We worked well together as a team. So, we traveled around and talked about SBSB, and I loved that. It was such a nice, I feel like use of my skills. Also, it was just really refreshing to kind of take a step back and say, “Let me give back to students because I was a student very recently.”
Hannah: We talk about this career path, and you laid out a bunch of different levels. For your next step, would you be on the same team that you’re on now, or would that require you to move to a different part of the company, or what does that look like?
Emily: Yes. I think it’s looked different over the years. But as of right now, my understanding is it would be on the same team. That’s part of the reason that we’re really focusing on the silo is because I’ve developed relationships with clients the last three years. Yes, of course, they’re Barbara’s clients, but I’ve been servicing them. The point is is if I move up to manager, maybe I service them a little bit differently and I kind of elevate myself a little bit. But, the point is to stay with those clients because the clients rely on the team for kind of their planning needs.
Hannah: So, your role in the firm would change then?
Emily: Exactly. Yeah. I think my role in how I correspond with clients, it’s something that we consider. It’s called a lead planner. I think other firms have something very similar, if not the same thing, where you kind of step into that role of leading the relationship, which looks a little different for every client. But, the point is just to elevate yourself into this kind of lead planner role. Then, that’s when another associate comes from school or from a job change, and you kind of help them grow and help them learn. It’s kind of this self-fulfilling prophecy in a way, right? You work your way up and bring others with you.
Hannah: So is your expectation that someday that you’ll be basically the Barbara for your clients?
Emily: Yes, and that’s kind of where I … There’s a little bit of a gray area on how long that takes. You know, for someone like me coming out of college, I’m still in those learning years, those primary learning years. So, my job is to develop basically a technical competency that will last me through my career, and of course that’s through continued education and a lot of other things. But right now, if I really focus on the technical, over the next few years, I’ll also simultaneously be developing the relational aspects to, I guess, what financial planning is. So ideally, yes, I would end up being in a role very similar to Barbara.
Emily: That’s kind of what’s happened over the years, is we’ve seen all of these associates kind of make their way up. A great example is our tax department. Patrick Dunn started, I think, I think as an intern. It might’ve been as an associate. Now, he is the head of our tax department. So, he’s the relationship manager, but also runs an entire department. I think that that mix of career is really interesting. I would definitely be looking for opportunities later to kind of have some sort of dual role where your relationship manager with your book of business, like a Barbara, but maybe finding opportunities to be involved in the actual leadership or running of the company.
Hannah: What does your day-to-day look like?
Emily: My day-to-day is always different, which I think is what a lot of people love about financial planning, right?
Emily: I mean, you know? You’re not sitting there behind a desk just … What is the word? Monotony, that kind of. You’re really enjoying yourself. So, I think that every day looks a little different, but for the most part, it’s a lot of meeting prep, and then meeting follow-up. Meetings really drive, I would say, my workflow. When maybe meetings are a bit slower, that tends to be during tax season. So, I actually prepare individual and trust tax returns. During that season, that tends to pick up. Then, throughout the year, I do quarterly tax projections, so that’s always thrown into my day.
Emily: We do have, like I mentioned before, an internship program. Actually, this past summer, I led the internship program. We had a student from Virginia Tech and a student from Texas Tech. That was part of my day, right? For the three months over the summer, I was able to kind of integrate them into what an associate actually does and help them with their training program and kind of get them involved in local NextGen events and FPA events. So, that was all of a sudden part of my day. So you know, everything’s just … It just is always different and always exciting.
Emily: I always love when a client calls me and wants to chat with me about something. Right now, we’re rolling out a new portfolio reporting system. So, now all of a sudden part of my day is getting clients set up and making sure that they understand the new reporting system, which is going to be a temporary flow of work. Then, that’ll change again. I think they keep us busy around here, but it’s definitely always something different and something unique.
Hannah: Was there anything that really surprised you when you started working full-time from what you were expecting back in college?
Emily: Yes. All of a sudden, you have no time for anything else. I had a really honestly tough time with that. You know how it was in college. If you wanted to skip a class, or you wanted to go to some event, I mean, you just had nothing but time. In college, I would’ve argued differently. I would have said, “Oh, my schedule’s so full,” but, yeah, when you’re working 40 to 50 hours a week, it becomes pretty difficult to go to the grocery store and run errands, and make time for your family, and make time for your friends. I always thought I had time management kind of … I was like, “I’m ready. I got this.” But no. That was a big surprise. It was really quite the workload to manage. You come home maybe a little stressed. Maybe you’re worried for the next work day. I mean, in college, that’s just not necessarily the case, so that was different.
Emily: Then, honestly, having a paycheck was very different. I think I thought that I wasn’t really going to be affected by that, but all of a sudden you have so much more money than hypothetically you had in college, and you have to learn how to invest it and how to save for retirement. All these things are kind of thrown at you. Thank God we’re in the profession that we’re in. I mean, we have such a leg up. I feel very lucky to kind of be prepared to think about those things. I think that honestly helped me land on my feet probably more solidly than I would’ve otherwise.
Hannah: One of the things I hear a lot from young planners, or a question that I get a lot, is, will clients actually listen to me as somebody in my early 20s giving them advice on their personal finances? What have you found in your experience?
Emily: Oh, man. That is a loaded question. I have a lot of different ways I’d love to answer that. I am going to start with one of my favorite comments, “You remind me of my granddaughter,” or, “Oh, my granddaughter just graduated,” or something along those lines of their immediately, not only not their daughter, but their granddaughter. So, I have gotten that, honestly, countless times, some sort of comment that very much makes my age apparent. And if they don’t make a comment like that, somewhere along the lines it’ll be, maybe we’re talking about a stock market crash, “Oh, well, you were in like sixth grade.” Okay. Thank you. I know that.
Emily: So, I think that clients sometimes try to find a little bit of humor in it, because they really are. They’re sitting across from someone decades younger. But, I will say two things. Having a relationship manger like Barbara in the room is wonderful because Barb helps build my credibility when I’m in those meetings. She’ll talk about the fact I got my CFP and I got my EA. She’ll talk about my involvement in a way where I’m not doing it so I can stay quiet. But, Barb’s doing it and kind of building me up. And honestly, the second or third time I see those clients. It’s such a nonissue, you know? At first, it might’ve been just blatantly apparent, but building trust and kind of building that relationship supersedes any other kind of notions or stereotypes.
Hannah: Often, I find that sometimes it’s in our heads-
Hannah: … more than it is in reality.
Emily: Yeah. Sometimes I do sit there. I would say I have, not only Barb … I guess that’s the first thing that I felt like she’s great sitting in those client meetings. I actually have much older parents. So, I am able to talk with clients about things that I’m personally not affected by, but I know that my parents are.
Emily: To be honest, as you know, couples come in, and next thing you know, it’s marriage therapy, or some sort of counseling, or maybe they’re sharing about their health and some recent struggles that they’ve been having. Being able to have parents in their 70s where you can say, “You know what? My dad, actually … ” This is a true story. “My dad had a heart attack earlier this year. This is kind of how our family dealt with it. Here are a few things that kind of helped me get through it.” All of a sudden, I can connect with clients that have years of life experience that I don’t have, but having older parents helps me, I guess, bridge the gap of those conversations. I feel pretty lucky to kind of have the combination of the support of a wonderful relationship manger, but then the experience of my family to kind of help everyone communicate a little bit better.
Hannah: You mentioned financial therapy and in counseling, those pieces. Do you feel equipped to navigate those conversations, or is Barbara really kind of there and you’re really learning from here?
Emily: I’m going to answer this kind of two ways, I guess. With financial planning, you can prove that you’re confident through designations, or you can prove that you’re confident after building that relationship with the clients. Maybe you help them with your taxes. Then, all of a sudden, next year it’s tax time and they have some questions. You kind of built that trust. I will say that that comes faster, and I think that that comes more easily than anything in the realm of financial therapy or counseling. I think that’s because, I guess one, that’s not necessarily what a lot of financial planners major in, or study, or have a background in. So, it’s automatically going to be a little bit of a gray area. I think it’s a gray area for a lot of CFP professionals, both ethically and considering whether or not they actually have the skillset.
Emily: So, I would say that anything in that realm while I study it, and learn about, and hope to one day kind of figure out a successful way to integrate that into practice, I personally am not there yet. But, I would say that when you have a relationship with clients you develop kind of a trust. A funny story, actually. Barbara recently … One of her clients became widowed. She jokes, but she’s right, that’s she’s kind of like the husband in the relationship, because this widow relied on her husband for financial advice, and guidance, and really had no sort of foundational knowledge in financial planning. So, Barb jokes, you know? But, she asks questions of Barbara that she would’ve asked of her husband. So, I think in a way that is almost a therapy, counseling type relationship, but I would say it’s more of an underlying thing than a thing that’s actively practiced, if that makes sense.
Hannah: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. It’s a way of showing up with clients, I think.
Emily: Exactly. Yeah. It’s a way of being there, showing up for them. The financial therapy association is doing wonderful things and leaps and bounds for, I think, ways to integrate therapy successfully. So you know, I’m sure more to come on that right in the next few years.
Hannah: One thing that’s really impressive about you, Emily, is that you’ve gotten involved not just in your day job in those 40 hours of work, but you’ve gone above and beyond in getting involved in NextGen, in writing a paper, and I’m sure there’s probably other ways. But, can you talk about kind of how you decided to get involved in the things outside of your day job, if you would?
Emily: Yeah, definitely. I kind of alluded to earlier is when I first started, there weren’t a lot of peers for me to kind of look around and say, “Hey. You know, how are you getting involved? What are the things that I need to be doing?” So, I kind of deferred to Virginia Tech alumns that I knew had reached success in their 20s basically in this profession, namely Rianka, and Yousuf, and Lauren, and actually Mark as well who worked at SBSB at the time. I kind of looked at them, and I was like, “Okay. How do I achieve the things that they’ve achieved.” Without a doubt, NextGen was such a big part of their foundation that I knew that that’s kind of … That was a step that I needed to take.
Emily: So, I just started getting involved in FPA. Actually, my first thing that I did was I was a recent graduate, and I did a panel for the FPA National Capital Area Career Day. So, I was a panelist. That was it. I think I might’ve even sat on a round table. Then, all of a sudden, it was like I caught the bug. It’s so contagious. You feel like you’re making a difference. You feel like you’re getting involved.
Emily: Basically, that one panel changed the next three years. I just became more actively involved. I sat on planning committees for the NextGen retreat and the NextGen career day. Now, this year, I’m actually running the career day. So you know, it starts with being a panelist and you end up with the opportunity to kind of become more involved. So, I would say there’s no such thing as too little involvement, right? Just kind of dip your toes in and go from there. It really is you find your people and you just want to do it more frequently.
Hannah: Have you found that it’s helped your career?
Emily: That’s an interesting question. I don’t think that it has necessarily impacted my job as a financial planner at SBSB. I do not think that it has any sort of takeaway on my day-to-day. But, I will say it’s phenomenal networking. The ability to kind of reach out and ask, you can develop mentorship relationships. Like, Lauren was my mentor for a year, and of course, very successful at Yeske Buie. I think it can help you professionally in your growth and development, but maybe not necessarily helping you get from associate to senior associate, if that makes sense.
Hannah: Also, in my experience, I never understood, first of all, that I was building it, but then I never understood how important it was until you needed it. Then, I was like, “Oh my gosh. How does anybody do it without this network?”
Emily: Exactly. Yup. That’s so true.
Hannah: So, you have your day-to-day practice as a financial planner. Then, you have all this stuff that you’re doing with NextGen. But then, you’ve also written a research paper. Can you tell me, how did this come about?
Emily: Yes, definitely. So, talking about building your network, Dr. Asebedo was a teacher at Virginia Tech for almost three years, I think, in the financial planning department. I took a few of her classes and really connected with her, started developing kind of a mentorship relationship. She really guided me kind of with my next steps. Once I graduated, she kind of talked me through the timing of studying and taking the CFP exam, and studying and taking the enrolled agent examinations, and then kind of figuring out what was next for me.
Emily: At the time, she had talked a lot about Kansas State, because I think she has her undergraduate, her masters, and her PhD from that financial planning program. She would say like, “Hey, Kansas State has a wonderful graduate certificate in financial planning or financial therapy.” Then, she herself had actually gotten one in conflict resolution I think around that same time from Kansas State. So, we were kind of communicating about this whole realm of financial therapy and conflict resolution techniques, and kind of through that came the possibility to basically coauthor with her.
Emily: PhDs publish all of the time, and I knew that she was really well respected in the areas of different peer-reviewed academic journals. So, I kind of reached out and I said, “Hey, I think it would be awesome, a really different experience for me. This is kind of what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?” She was all for it. We kind of built off of a prior paper that she had written. Then, we ended up getting published, actually, in the October Journal Financial Planning. So, it kind of all happened in the course of almost a year. I want to do it all over again. It was such a wonderful experience.
Hannah: Let’s break down this experience, because I’m fascinated by this, and I want … Oh my gosh. I want more young people listening to this podcast to do this. It’s so needed. Did you have to go do research yourself for this paper?
Emily: So the Journal of Financial Planning, and actually journals in general, publish all sorts of different types of things. We ended up publishing in the contributions section, which is toward the end of the journal. It’s definitely more academic research versus maybe a column that I could write perhaps about NextGen, which would usually go toward the front of the journal and it would be a shorter article with much less research required. So, there’s all sorts of opportunities, but we ended up doing the contribution section because I do think that that’s where most PhDs publish. So, she had this kind of foundational paper that she had written before. A lot of the research she had done in the space of conflict resolution, like I said, because of her certificate.
Emily: So, a lot of, I think, the value that I added was, well, among just obviously a second person writing, and reading, and editing, was the fact that I’m a practitioner. That’s where I feel like … I just see like a rainbow when I think about that because any financial planning practitioner could reach out to a PhD. We have such wonderful programs. I mentioned them earlier. Texas Tech, Georgia, and Kansas State specifically have these professor that write, and publish, and research. When you compare that with a practitioner, we had the opportunity to present at FPA because the pairing was so unique that a practitioner was able to read it, and understand it, and have actual key takeaways, versus maybe another research paper which could be maybe a little analytical, or you’re feeling like, “Oh, how do I use this in practice?” So, I would so encourage anyone who feels like they’re interested in writing and research to just find that pairing and find that topic and just give it a shot. I mean, there’s nothing to lose from it, and pretty much everything to gain.
Hannah: When did you start doing this? How long of a project was this?
Emily: Yeah, I think it was about a year. I feel like we started pretty heavily in January, but had chatted about it, like I said, as a mentor. She had started giving me pretty much a lot of advice, I guess, throughout my three years. But, once we kind of started really talking about it and working on it, I think it was just very early this year. We worked virtually through a combination of Google Docs and Google Dropbox. We had occasional video conferences just to kind of get on the same page. We basically come away with action items. We’d work on it, and then come back together. I mean, it’s no different than working on a college project, really.
Hannah: Oh, I love that analogy.
Emily: Yeah. I mean, it isn’t, you know?
Hannah: So, what did it feel like when you got your journal of financial planning and saw your published article?
Emily: I’m about to sound like such a nerd, but honestly, it was the best feeling in the world. It was … We were supposed to be publish in the November issue. Then, I got to the FPA conference and literally maybe a day before that, I had realized we were actually released in the October issue. So, when we had … We all filled up that massive room. I don’t know how many people it seats. Maybe a thousand, maybe 2,000. We sat down in this big kind of conference hall. I mean, you were there. The journal was on like our chairs, you know what I mean?
Emily: So, all of a sudden, it was like I know that it gets dispersed to a bunch of advisors, obviously, all over the country, but it was like a very tangible, measurable just thing. That as you know, sometimes in your profession it’s kind of hard to measure your achievements, especially with client interaction, you know? How do you actually measure that. I had this journal in my hand, and it was just this feeling of accomplishment. All of a sudden, I just had a lot of people talking to me about it. It was great. It was honestly just … It was the best feeling.
Hannah: So, you’re 25. You have published article in the Journal of Financial Planning. You’re progressing in your career track. But you’re also going to school for your master’s degree right now.
Emily: Yes. I’m actually getting a master’s certificate at Kansas State because they also … They let you study virtually, which is big when you’re working full-time. They have a financial therapy certificate program that’s basically six classes. But if you have your CFP, you test out of one. So you know, it’s a few credits. I think I’ll be able to get it this spring. I’ll be all wrapped up with it.
Emily: What I love about it, it’s most of the courses are taught by Dr. Megan McCoy, actually. What I love about it is when you are working a 40-hour week, it is so hard to find time to read and keep engaged. The number one thing teachers do is they force out assigned reading. Here’s four books I want you to read. Here’s a bunch of articles that were recently published. I want you to read this. I want you to get engaged. Having that little bit of a push to say, “I need to read this because we have weekly classes, and I need to be able to foster good discussion,” I mean, it’s such a nice way to fill in that whole lifetime of learning kind of itch that people have. So, I am doing that as well.
Emily: Considering other kind of master’s actual degrees versus certificate programs, but I have a little bit more thinking to do on that. But, what’s great about it is I meet peers that are actually getting their PhDs and their master’s, because the classes I’m taking are required of those degrees. So, all of a sudden, I connect with PhD candidates, and they want to get published. So you know, now I found another person that I could coauthor with. And all of a sudden, all these connections start coming. And once again, you’re expanding your network and you’re basically growing your opportunities.
Hannah: So, what would you tell somebody who’s considering getting, you know, going to get a master’s? It’s a master’s certificate, not a master’s degree.
Emily: Exactly. The master’s certificate is just kind of a way to say, “Here’s a few classes that we think are important to building a foundation in financial therapy, but they are by no means the full-blown 30 credits or whatever it is to actually achieve a master’s degree.”
Hannah: So, what would you tell somebody who’s looking at kind of that next level education level?
Emily: Everyone is going to give you different advice. I think that’s the first thing I had to realize before I could actually make a decision. Everyone is going to push something different, and that’s okay. It’s their advice, and ultimately it’s your choice. I think the one thing that I will say is, obviously, in our profession, CFP I think is the standard of excellent, if you will. Once you’ve done that, I think kind of finding your niche is really important. For me, we prepare taxes, so I needed to kind of, honestly, just gain a better foundation of that. So, I went for my enrolled agent exam. There’s a lot of CFPEA people out there. I love that experience, so that worked really well for me.
Emily: But then, all of a sudden, I kind of realized when I’m in these client relationships and in these client meetings, I all of a sudden kind of had an interest for the relationship and kind of the more … like the coaching and counseling techniques that could be used and integrated into practice. So for me, I found these little niches. That’s honestly what I would encourage any student to do. It’s okay not to know, you know? It’s fine if you haven’t found that niche. Give it a few years. Reevaluate. Have some conversations with some peers and some mentors. Then, feel free to go attack that in whatever way that that might look like.
Hannah: I completely agree with you. I think there’s so much pressure that’s put on new planners to figure it all out right away. Sometimes your niches find you. You can’t find them, they find you.
Emily: Exactly. I think that’s great advice, too. Just be patient. Be honest with yourself. If you’re not at tax guru, you’re not going to go get your CPA or your EA or anything, master’s in taxation. If that’s not your thing and not your nice, honestly, my advice would just be don’t push it. Find what you’re good at, because people like listening to people that are good at what they’re naturally good at, if that makes sense. There’s a lot of words. But you know, just taking a step back and really having that conversation with yourself.
Hannah: Sorry. We keep going through all these qualifications and I forgot about your EA that you have as well.
Emily: Yeah, oh my gosh. Yeah. That was just something I did after my CFP as kind of a … Like I said, we prepare about … or, I prepare about 50 returns a season. So, that was just kind of like a … I look at everything, honestly, like a college class. I took a class, I took an exam. I took a … You know, rinse and repeat, right? I think when you’re younger and you’re right out of school, you kind of have that motivation and that traction going. I would say, for as long as you feel like you have that, just to keep going for it and keep pushing it, and of course realizing there’s time. Find time for personal satisfaction in your personal life. But for me, I still feel like I’m in college a little bit. So, I don’t necessarily feel like it’s all this pressure to get a certification. It’s just continuing education, if that makes sense.
Hannah: So, what’s the next thing for you? What’s your next step?
Emily: Oh, I don’t know what my next step is right now. I want to finish the Kansas State certificate program. I did recently, I hope not to jinx it, apply to the Pamplin College of Business, which is Virginia Tech’s business school, to the recent alumni board. Even if I don’t get it kind of this upcoming cycle, I think that that’s something that I really feel strongly about giving back to my school, and I would encourage any young planner to kind of say, “Where did I find my success and why did I find my success?” If that answer is your program, find ways to serve that program through an alumni board, or volunteer opportunities, or speaking engagements.
Hannah: So, what would be your advice to new planners who are just graduating college right now?
Emily: Ooh, that’s a good question. My advice to new planners that are graduating, it’s kind of like what we just talked about. I mean, be patient and find your people. If finding your people means going to events like a NextGen retreat or the National NextGen Gathering, really have those conversations with your managers to make sure that you’re attending the events that you feel like will help build you up for success.
Emily: I mean, I’m a graduate of the FPA residency program. I have nothing but amazing things to say about that. Not only, of course, do you get, I think, 28 continuing education credits in six days, but you meet these mentors and these deans who change your life. I mean, honestly, when I was finished with the program, I wrote them all thank you notes. Then, I got thank you notes for my thank you notes because that’s just how polite everyone is in this industry. I think that any time you can connect with people who have advice to give, it’s just going to be nothing but valuable.
Hannah: I want to touch on this residency really quick.
Hannah: Because we haven’t talked a whole lot about that on this podcast, but I hear the same thing from everybody who goes. What an amazing transformational experience it is. What was it about residency that made it so special?
Emily: A few things. It is a diverse group of really motivated individuals. I mean, they’re from all over the country, which is, of course, wonderful. I mean, where are you going to get in a room with everyone from all over the country, right? But basically, it’s a six-day program that’s held, I think, twice a year in Colorado that really focuses on the development of new financial planners. When I say new, I think it’s maybe less than three years, as well as people who are about to be CFP professionals but maybe haven’t met the experience requirement yet.
Emily: So, I think that the way that the program is structured is so … It contributes very heavily to the success of the program. Then, of course, the methods that they use, which are pretty much scenario building and case studies, but instead of focusing on technical, they focus on the soft side of financial planning. So, where are you going to learn in six days about soft side of financial planning when it could take people five years to learn that? So, I think that they found, like I said, a nice, right? They found a niche, and they’re helping so many people every year I think find success faster than they would have otherwise.
Hannah: Oh, that’s great. We’ll have the links for residency. They’re in the show notes for anybody listening.
Emily: Yeah. I would definitely encourage anyone going. I mean, a lot of the deans are just such … My dean was Jonathan Guyton and then Dave Yeske I know was another dean. I mean, they’re just leaders in the profession. They have so much advice and guidance to give that really helps, I think, new planners walk away just more confident.